I have heard a lot of people touting the benefits of intermittent fasting, but I have never tried it myself – until last month!
For those of you that know me, you know I LOVE to eat and I never miss a meal. The very thought of fasting is enough to send me to the kitchen!
The little bit that I did know about intermittent fasting really turned me off. I thought it was unnecessary. I thought it was just a gimmick to lose weight.
However a couple of my readers have asked me about it so I thought I would look into it a little deeper – and set up a 30-day intermittent fasting experiment.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is simply a cycling between periods of eating and periods of fasting.
Now if the word “fasting” makes you think of starving your body for days (or weeks), this is not at all what this is about.
You already “fast” when you sleep so intermittent fasting simply extends the time that you are not eating a little longer that you typically would.
There aren’t any dietary protocols that go along with intermittent fasting. It’s not about eating vegan, or raw, or paleo.
While I recommend eating healthy, the focus is on the cycle between fasting and eating.
Why Intermittent Fast?
Many people do intermittent fasting in order to lose weight, as it is a simple and effective way to restrict calories and burn fat.
Some research suggests that it can help protect against disease, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and others.
While not yet demonstrated in humans, intermittent fasting has been shown to extend lifespan in lab rats.
Some people simply do it for convenience, or to save time. Skipping breakfast is easy when you are busy.
3 Types of Intermittent Fasting
There are three different types of intermittent fasting:
The 16/8 Method: You skip breakfast and restrict your daily eating period to 8 hours. For example, you eat your meals within an 8-hour period (11:00am to 7:00pm), and then you fast for 16 hours in between.
Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for a 24-hour period once or twice a week.
The 5:2 Diet: On two non-consecutive days of the week, only eat 500-600 calories. Try not to juice or use meal replacement shakes on your fast days. It’s best if you eat healthy, whole foods that are lower in calories.
Of the three methods of intermittent fasting, options 2 and 3 did not appeal to me. I know, I’m such a lightweight when it comes to fasting!
Doing the 16/8 method felt like the best beginner-level protocol for me, so that’s what I did for 30 days.
I decided to have all of my meals within the 8-hour period from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM. I would fast for 16 hours each day.
Once I Got Into My Fasting Groove, It Was Surprisingly Easy
Okay, I’ll admit that I was a little nervous about holding off on breakfast until 11:00 AM.
I am a morning person, and much more so with a three year old who also gets up at or around 6 AM most mornings.
My typical routine would be to make a big green smoothie meal soon after waking up. Then I’d work out, and have a post-workout snack or smoothie.
But instead, I’d have to wait five hours before I could eat anything!
The first couple of days were a little hard. I know that fasting until 11:00 doesn’t sound too hard to a lot of you, but when you are up at 6:00 with a little one, it’s not as easy as you might think.
I decided to set a food timer on day 2. This was a BIG help. I set my timer for 11:00 AM and then I didn’t have to look at my clock every few minutes to see if it was time to eat.
Setting a timer took the focus off of the waiting to eat, so that I could fill my time with other things. Keeping busy really helps take your mind off of food.
I started every morning with warm lemon water. I would nurse that for about 30 minutes or so.
I also made sure that I drank a lot of water. On the second and third day, I still felt extremely hungry after having my first meal at 11:00 AM, but I’ll touch on that in my next point.
By the fourth day, I no longer felt starved after I ate my first meal.
I tried to better manage my food. I would make a small smoothie in the early morning when I was making breakfast for my son and store it in the refrigerator until 11:00 AM. This made for a much faster grab and go meal.
I would then eat a small lunch around 12:30 PM, a snack around 3:00 PM and dinner around 6:00 PM. I made sure to eat something small around 7:00 PM if I ate an early dinner since I knew it would be 16 hours until my next meal.
I was not trying to restrict calories during my intermittent fast experiment, nor was I trying to hit a certain daily calorie number. I just ate until I was satisfied.
Gently Break Your Fast Each Day
I am used to eating large meals and after not eating for 16 hours, my first instinct was to eat a big meal. During this fasting experiment, however, it backfired and I felt sick right after eating, followed by the feeling of constant hunger all day.
On the fourth day, I started to make a small green smoothie meal instead of a large one. I slowly broke the fast and I didn’t have any more stomach or hunger pains.
It felt like less of a shock to my body when I eased into eating rather than “making up for lost time” with a big meal.
Exercising On Empty Has Some Surprising Benefits
My daily workout was my biggest concern. I have done juice fasts before and my energy levels tanked. I couldn’t remain as active as I am accustomed to.
I was concerned that intermittent fasting would interfere with my fitness goals. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to do a proper workout without fuel, and that it would be more difficult to squeeze a workout into the busiest part of my day.
I usually work out in the mornings after I have a banana and then I have a green smoothie right after. I didn’t want to work out so early in the morning while fasting as I know I was gong to want to eat after.
Davy and I decided to work out together around 4:30 PM. We are lucky that we can make this shift, and it worked well for me.
However, one of my friends invited me to a mommy boot camp workout program that started at 9:45 AM on Wednesdays and Fridays. (It’s a regular fitness boot camp, but you get to bring your kids). I was a little nervous to exercise on an empty stomach – something that I have never done before.
But I was shocked at how much energy I had for the workout! I wasn’t hungry at all and I actually did better than I had on past boot camp days.
The boot camp ends at 10:30 AM so I still had 30 minutes before I could eat anything. I wasn’t hungry and was able to help clean up, pack my kid up, and walk to my car without feeling like I was going to eat everything in sight.
Full confession: I actually had so much energy that I even went home and mowed the lawn after my first mommy boot camp workout! I even started running in the mornings again. I’m only running two miles, but it’s a much better energy boost than I ever thought it would be.
The Good & Bad About The Scale
I was actually surprised that I dropped about four pounds the first week of my fasting. I really didn’t do anything else differently with my diet. I wasn’t going out of my way to lose weight, or restrict calories. I just ate the way I normally eat, but within an 8-hour period each day.
Unfortunately, that’s about where my weight loss stopped. I really don’t have a lot of weight to lose so I have a feeling that is why.
I have heard great weight loss results from intermittent fasting, but you need to eat healthy. Fasting definitely prevented me from overeating as I was only eating for eight hours a day. Of course, my diet is largely plant-based, whole foods, which helps a lot.
I actually enjoyed intermittent fasting a lot more than I thought I would.
In fact, I ended the 30-day experiment last week and I’m still doing it. It became a habit that I will keep for now.
Someday I might stop, but I feel more productive getting to work earlier, without having “make breakfast” and all the associated chores at the top of my to-do list.
I am also enjoying the benefits of working out on an empty stomach.
Intermittent fasting isn’t something that I feel is necessary. It’s something to try for weight loss, or to add to your current dietary protocol to see if it gives you added benefits.
Many of the benefits of fasting are also associated with just eating a healthy, plant-based, whole foods diet and exercising.
It was an interesting experience, and I’m glad that I gave it a try.
Have you tried intermittent fasting? If so, what benefits did you experience? Please share a comment below!